Extracting a kilo of tuna has a greater impact than extracting a kilo of anchovies, researchers say. (Photo: FIS)
Researchers encourage greater sardine consumption but not tuna
Thursday, September 23, 2010, 01:30 (GMT + 9)
A team of researchers from Spain and the United States are recommending a reduction in the consumption of tuna and an increase in intake of sardines, as both fish contain roughly the same nutrients. At the same time, scientists stress that consuming 100 grams of tuna will cause nearly 100 times more damage to the environment than 100 grams of sardines.
This was indicated by Enric Sala, a marine ecologist at the Centre d'Estudis Avançats of the Superior Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) in Spain and the National Geographic Society, as well as Daniel Pauly, of the University of British Columbia in the United States
The experts co-directed the investigation, the results of which will be released in October in America, within an edition of the National Geographic magazine and after, in December, it will be released in the Spanish version, reports the newspaper La Vanguardia.
"If we preserve the marine ecosystems so that future generations can continue to eat fish as we do, we should consume less larger species such as tunas," said Sala.
Rather than continue to consume large amounts of tuna, sea bream and sharks, marine biologists urge to eat species that are further down the food chain, such as small fish (sardines), cephalopods (squid and cuttlefish), molluscs (mussels and cockles) and herbivorous fish (often consumed in China, yet rarely in Spain).
They also recommend eating more vegetables instead of fish, due to their minor impact on the environment.
Within Europe, Spain is the country which consumes the most fish after Russia, with 1,600 tonnes annually, whilst in the world rankings it is placed as the 11th largest consumer.
In the study, Sala and Pauly mention a new unit called the 'fish footprint', which allows for clarification on their environmental impact, taking into account different species of fish consumed.
"Every fish is different. One pound of tuna has a footprint about 100 times greater than a pound of sardines," says Pauly.
In addition, the biologist notes that a single tuna should eat an amount equivalent to its body weight every 10 days to survive, so a large specimen may have to eat 15,000 small fish a year to carry on living.
"Consumers are often unaware that extracting a kilo of tuna has a greater impact than extracting a kilo of anchovies," Sala stressed.
In relation to the ecological footprint, Spain rises to sixth in the ranking of countries that have a greater environmental impact due to their consumption of fish, behind China, Japan, USA, Indonesia and the United Kingdom.
Whilst Sala believes that we should all eat less fish and more vegetables, he also acknowledged that it "may pose a dilemma for consumers," as medical societies recommend the intake of fish at least twice a week, due to their contribution of omega-3.
To try to clarify this discrepancy, the marine ecologist is working on a project with the National Geographic Society, which will inform citizens on the ecological footprint of different species of fish.
By Analia Murias
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member Catro Dai S.L. (Company Out of Business - Empresa Cerrada)